Decoding Your Plant’s Sunlight Needs

High light, medium light, low light – what does it actually mean? We’ll break it down for you so you know just how much light, and what kind, your houseplant needs to grow and thrive.

High = Bright direct sunlight

Bright light means a sunny spot that gets direct sunlight for the majority of the day such as a southern or western facing window.

Plants that require high levels of sunlight, such as Aloes and some varieties of Palms, will need to be placed in a bright spot where they’ll get direct sunlight for at least 5-6 hours a day.

Medium = Medium, indirect sunlight

Indirect light is an area with an east-facing window or an area that has a filter between the light source and your plant.

Plants that prefer medium to bright, indirect sunlight such as Rubber Trees, should be placed further from a window, or near a sunny window with a sheer curtain to prevent the plant from getting burned or scorched.

Low = Low sunlight or artificial light

Low light areas in your space will typically be rooms with north-facing or partially shaded windows.

Plants that can do well in low light, such as ZZ Plants and Snake Plants, will be able to survive in an area that gets little to no sunlight. You can place a low-light plant in a dark corner, or in a room that only gets artificial light.

How do I know what kind of light my home gets?”

Understanding the lighting in your home is the first step to getting the right houseplants for your space. Let’s break it down:

Start by identifying what direction your windows face.

  • North Facing Windows: A window that faces north receives less direct sunlight, but is more constant. This means plants will grow slowly, but stay healthy without needing as much care. These windows provide medium-to-low intensity light, which is great for plants that don’t mind shade. A north facing room will never have harsh bright light that causes shadows, like you would find from a south-facing window.
  • South Facing Windows: A window that faces south receives more direct sunlight and will get bright, but hot in the summer months. South-facing windows are ideal for many houseplants because they help to provide them with the lots of light needed for photosynthesis–the process that gives plants energy for growth and blooming. However, some plants (like those with thin leaves) may need to be moved back from direct sunlight to prevent them from burning and yellowing under too much sun during the hottest part of the day.
  • East Facing Windows: If you have an east facing window that means your plants are getting morning light, which is a soft and gentle way to start the day. Plants that like bright but indirect light (known as medium-light plants) will thrive here. This is the best kind of light for most houseplants—it’s indirect, but still bright enough to support plant growth.
  • West Facing Windows: If a window faces west, it will receive plenty of light throughout most of the day (morning to early evening). A west-facing room is usually warmest during midday and is usually on the cooler side after dark if there isn’t another source of heat, like a fireplace or central heating system in your home.

Consider how high or low your windows are.

Another thing to consider is how high or low your windows are. Placing a 4-foot tall houseplant near a low window means that the plant’s leaves will likely be shaded by the windowsill. Conversely, placing a 4″ succulent far from a tall window means it may never get enough light.

Once you’ve determined the amount of light your space gets, you can shop accordingly for a plant using the filters on our site. Just remember that finding the optimal lighting for your plant can take some trial and error, so monitor where you place your plant and adjust if needed so your plant can thrive.